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Online Scams Targeting Seniors and How to Prevent Them

Today, there are many online scams designed to trick people out of their money — and unfortunately, many of them target seniors. According to the FBI, online thieves target seniors for several reasons, including the likelihood that they have excellent credit. And, because they can be less computer savvy than younger generations, seniors might not know how easy it is for hackers to steal their personal or financial information.

The National Council on Aging lists the top 10 scams targeting seniors. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular methods scammers use, and ways you can keep your senior from becoming a target.

Fake Antivirus Software

This type of scam often takes the form of a pop-up window urging you to act now to get rid of viruses. The sense of urgency they create is enough to make you want to click them. But clicking can infect your computer with a real virus that could steal your account information or record your keystrokes to get usernames and passwords.

The best way to keep your loved one from antivirus scams is to install a pop-up blocker. After that, teach your senior how to distinguish reputable sites from potentially harmful ones. If he’s doing research on a prescription drug, for instance, help him find reliable sources, such as the drug manufacturer or official government websites.

Counterfeit Prescription Drugs

Today, there are many prescription drug providers online, but not all of them are reputable. For example, some distributors sell pills that have expired, while others will send you counterfeit material. As the FBI explains, drugs from an online distributor should come with the Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS) seal of approval.

Advise your senior to be mindful of any medication she buys online. Prescription drugs shouldn’t change in appearance from one shipment to the next. If a medication’s packaging or lot number has changed, or it looks otherwise suspicious, have your senior contact her doctor or pharmacist before taking it.

Telemarketing Schemes

While not strictly an online scam, telemarketing schemes can have online ramifications. Information collected over the phone can be used to access online bank accounts or Social Security benefits. So if someone calls your senior offering a free prize or vacation, he should ask what the catch is. He may have to pay a large handling fee or provide credit card information. If the person on the phone says that your loved one “must act now” without any additional information about the company, he should hang up.

Similarly, scammers impersonating a charity may ask for financial information. Educate your senior about the dangers of sharing financial information over the phone, even if the person on the other end claims to be from a legitimate charity. If your loved one really wants to give, most real charities have encrypted websites set up to accept donations.

Phishing Scams

Phishing scammers will pose as any number of reputable agencies, even the Internal Revenue Service, looking for information that will give them access to someone’s money or identity. If your senior receives an unsolicited email asking for personal information, credit card numbers, or money, she should delete it.

Raising awareness of scams targeting seniors is an important caregiver responsibility. Educate your loved one on the dangers of online and phone schemes. A healthy dose of skepticism could go a long way toward protecting her financial future.

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